It used to be that the sketch factor tattoo parlors brandished was less about patrons looking to furbish their bodies with skin art and more about the adrenaline-propelled idea of braving some sketchy joint (sweat-stained pleather couches, grimy linoleum floor, death metal band homages on the walls…you get the idea) and hoping that the gruff Hell’s Angels candidate, gangbanger, or straggly Axl Rose fanatic who seemed to have just shot-up heroin in the backroom, won’t screw that simple tribal design up as he combatively pokes you with his dubious needle. Today, however, the idea of a friendly neighborhood tattoo parlor is as feasible as getting an indiglo replica of the Mona Lisa on your left butt cheek. At least that’s what Ron Poe and Joel Poniente, the boys behind P & P Tattoo Studio (yeah, those P’s stand for their surnames; or Passion & Permanence if you’re pseudo-poetic like that) along Polaris Street in Makati’s Bel-Air Village, believe.
Both Poe and Poniente, a couple of 20-somethings who’ve experienced dialing-up tattoo artists to avoid the shady trip to the tattoo parlor and to get inked in the comfort of their own homes (Joel even throwing a get-sloshed-and-tattooed house party by commissioning DJs, bartenders, and tattoo artists), got an inkling of what the tainted tat scene in the Philippines needed: some big pimping. “If you walk around the mall in the States, probably 8/10 people have sleeves — and those cost thousands of dollars,” says Poe of those shoulder-to-wrist-coated tattoos; one he himself has on his left arm depicting an Intramuros street scene and portraits of his mother and of his father, the late Fernando Poe, jr. “We also want to take out the stereotype that if you look at someone with a tattoo, you’ll think that, ‘oh, he’s from prison’ or something like that. It’s a lifestyle and you might not even be able to afford what’s on his arm ‘cause ink is expensive and you’re paying for the artist like Amorsolo painting on your body. Consider it skin bling.”
What Poe and Poniente make clear is that they certainly don’t skimp on your skin art. Everything from the black gloves (no white surgical gloves here) their tat artists slip on to the wide color spectrum of ink they use (the ink the guys at Miami Ink use, no less) bears the quality stamp of importation. “Our ink is the best ink and everything here is done the proper way. This is gonna be on your body forever, so even if our prices are a little higher than the competition, it shouldn’t matter,” says Poniente, who especially stresses P & P’s stance in preventing tattoo needle AIDS transmission and that this isn’t the place you and your buddies can stumble drunkenly into, get inked, and wake up the next morning with matching Tinkerbell tattoos. “We want you to be absolutely sure you want that. We don’t want you, five years from now, to say ‘sh*t, sana I didn’t get this.”
And if you’ve got two formidable artists who’ve been laying ink on skin for more than 15 years, you should be d@mn sure you’re in good hands—the same ones drawing out what’s really in your imagination and onto your hide. “Dati kasi, pumapasok ang mga customer sa shop na walang design idea. ‘Di tulad ngayon, pumapasok ng shop na meron nang idea at pwede rin kaming mag-suggest at magbigay ng idea sa kanila,” says P & P tattoo artist Mike Sambajon, who’s been etching tattoos since chicks dug Tweety birds on their waists in the early ‘90s to now, where they’ll get entire arms decked out in oriental design; a shift as pronounced as the tattoo technology used in P & P today.
“Wasakan talaga ng balat dati. Walang mabibiling gamit,” says Jake Cuerpo, who, while working on Poe’s tat sleeve late last year, was offered the idea of continuing his work for P & P — his own fully stocked tattoo station amid high caliber equipment, from stencil to sterilization machines. “’Pag tattoo shop, pumapasok kaagad sa utak ng tato na ganon lang — yung makikita mong maraming underground shop sa Recto. Pero dito, tumataas ang level ng tattoo.”
No longer adorning just people on society’s fringes — ex-cons, hookers, and Motley Crue band members — considering you can find tattoos on everyone from Project Runway contestants to Mouseketeers, the tattoo’s aesthetic assertion as form of expression has now even found a legitimate home on a busy Makati street. And in other major cities in the future as well, considering Poe and Poniente have plans of expanding P & P to become the nation’s go-to tat pad where you can put your feet up, play a little X-BOX, or do a little shopping (sneaks, hoodies, scented candles, hookahs for sale, even) and, before you know it, realize that you’d just gotten a work of art eternalized on your epidermis. Of course, you’d need to be guaranteed satisfaction if you’re gonna be wearing that personal expression on your skin for the long, long haul, so why shouldn’t that immortal reminder be poked n’ prodded onto you as pleasurably as possible?
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